It’s not the path anyone expected, but the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors are exactly where everyone expected them to be. Tied 3-3 after a double overtime classic in Game 6.
We can pick apart the game the way we usually do here in the Takeaways, but honestly, there is just too much to go over. Normally, the notes document has about 25-30 bullets. Some are observations, some are specific plays. All are things that get reevaluated on the re-watch for relevance. Ultimately, they get whittled down to 10 (fine, sometimes as many as 13-15!) takeaways.
Game 6 has 84 bullets.
It was that kind of game. After three hours on the edge of your seat, you were exhausted and struggling to process exactly what happened. By the time you peeled yourself off the couch, shuffled off and fell into bed, so much still didn’t make a lot of sense.
Toronto played a box-and-1 defense for an entire half of an NBA game?
Jaylen Brown went off for 21 points in the first half, then scored only 10 points in the second half and the two overtimes. Despite it all, Brown put up Boston’s first game of 30+ points and 15+ rebounds (Brown had 31 and 16) since Robert Parish in 1987?
Marcus Smart hit a ridiculous amount of big shots, but was even bigger in every other facet. Smart put together the Celtics first playoff triple-double since Rajon Rondo in 2012 with 23/11/10?
Jayson Tatum just missed a triple-double of his own with 29/14/9?
Kemba Walker scored only five points on 2-of-11 shooting?
Brad Stevens played his five starters from the time there was 23 seconds left in the third quarter straight through the end of the game. No subs for 22:23 of game time?
Nick Nurse took an almost identical approach. He played 34-year-old Kyle Lowry 53:28?
Nick Nurse came on the court with 43 seconds left in the first overtime?
The officials seemed to be making it up as they went along with many calls, including crucial reviews?
The two teams finished the first overtime looking exhausted and like they’d barely be able to finish the game. In the second overtime they combined for 35 points and both sides hit big shot after shot?
The answer to every one of those questions is: Yes.
Brad Stevens said pregame that New Patriots head coach Bill Belichick talked to the Celtics at the beginning of the playoffs. Stevens relayed that part of Belichick’s message was “History and experience are meaningless. It’s about what happens in the moment.”
Following the game, Stevens seemed to heed that message. He immediately moved on from a difficult loss and repeatedly said “Just need to get ready for Game 7 on Friday.”
For fans, we can let losses linger. Especially ones with so many things to leave us angry about. We can grouse about calls, lack of calls or cheap tactics from the opponent. Hell, this other author still believes Eli Manning was in the grasp in Super Bowl 42 in 2008. Some things stick with you longer than others.
Coaches and players can’t let losses stick with them. Generally, they’ve moved on shortly after the final buzzer sounds. They don’t have the luxury to wallow in their own misery. History and experience are meaningless. It’s about moving on to the next moment.
No one from the Boston Celtics is still thinking about what happened 0.5 seconds left in Game 3. No one is thinking about any number of turning points in Game 6. They’re only thinking about Game 7.
The silver lining is that in each of Toronto’s wins, they’ve seemingly had to give everything they have to come away victorious. Boston meanwhile has engineered two blowouts as part of their three wins.
This series has a bit of a 2008 feel. The Celtics would win via blowout and lose close on a somewhat regular basis in that playoff run. This group has proven they are better than the Raptors. They just need to be one more time.
Since Boston ascended to six straight playoff appearances starting in 2015, we’ve wanted a Celtics/Raptors series. The regular season matchups between Boston and Toronto regularly produced classics. It felt like there was a real rivalry there, but one based in mutual respect. At least between the teams. Not so sure about the fans.
Unfortunately, each year either the Celtics or Raptors bowed out earlier than expected in the playoffs. Usually, LeBron James was involved in making that happen.
In 2020, on neutral courts at Walt Disney World of all places, we finally got it. Boston vs Toronto.
The Celtics and Raptors took the path less traveled by and that has made all the difference.
Now, it’s Game 7. History and experience are meaningless. It’s all about what happens in the moment on Friday night.
Celtics vs Raptors Game 7 is on Friday at 9:00 PM ET on TNT.